Churchill’s iconic portrait was stolen months ago, and the theft was only discovered now

Churchill's iconic portrait was stolen months ago, and the theft was only discovered now

Yosef Karchou estate

NOS . News

The Canadian capital, Ottawa, is exposed to the task of disappearing a picture of Winston Churchill. An avatar of the grouchy British statesman hangs in a hotel, but it turns out it was replaced with a copy months ago. The theft was discovered only last week. The police launched an investigation.

The photo was taken in 1941, shortly after Churchill’s speech to the Canadian Parliament about World War II. It is the most famous work of the Canadian-Armenian portrait photographer Youssef Karsh, who wanted a picture without the inseparable Churchill cigar.

Karsh later recalls, “I raised the ashtray, but he didn’t throw the cigar away.” “Then I approached him and said, Forgive me, sir, and I picked the cigar out of his mouth.” The moment the photographer returned to his camera, Churchill looked “so combative that he could devour me.” The image was later used, among other things, on the British 5 pound note.


The picture hung at the Château Laurier in Ottawa, where Karsh stayed for a long time and had a studio. A collection of his work has been on display in the reading room for decades.

Last week, staff noticed that the frame containing Churchill’s portrait was not straight. Then they found out that the frame did not match Karsh’s other picture frames, which are also hanging in the lounge. After investigation and consultation with Karsh’s heirs, it was decided to replace the image with a copy.

After a call from the public to send in photos of the reading room, the manager concluded that the theft must have occurred between December 25, 2021 and January 6, 2022. “I showed this photo to guests almost daily and we never noticed it,” said hotel manager Genevieve Dumas. “It was professionally done. It is very similar to the original.”

Art theft expert thinks they are money thieves, reports CTV News. “The thief knew what he was doing, it wasn’t a whim. The person who did it is neither an art lover nor a photography enthusiast.” According to the expert, a photo can bring in more than 100,000 dollars.

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